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Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2002 / 3 Adar, 5762

Michael Ledeen

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The Great Iranian Hoax -- The New York Times carried an amazing account of rallies in celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. The account, which runs along the same lines as an earlier piece by the BBC, is so full of revolutionary zeal and enthusiasm that one wonders — Really! — what possesses these people. The journalists, that is, not the demonstrators. We know what possesses them, all too well.

The largest estimate I can find of the crowd in Tehran is about 300,000, and while that may seem like a huge number to a Western journalist, it is appallingly small by historical standards. Over the years, the regime could generally count on a million or so enthusiasts, but the last time a million people demonstrated in Tehran it was to demand an end to the regime, just a few months ago. Yesterday's mob was an insult to the regime, a further demonstration of its weakening grip on the Iranian people.

The story is even clearer when you realize that the regime knew in advance that it would have to work hard to fill the available space, and it pulled out all the stops to get bodies in place. The secret police, the Basiji, went around threatening students and teachers, warning of dire consequences if they didn't show up. All government employees, and all members of the armed forces were ordered to participate. The poor were told that if they didn't celebrate, their welfare would be cut off. Thousands of buses dragged people from the countryside to the city.

And still the best they could come up with was about a third of the usual turnout. That should have been the headline, and that is a big story.

But the Times and the BBC played it as a triumph for the regime, and a humiliation for the United States, as if the people of Iran had spontaneously rallied to their ayatollahs and mullahs in the face of George W. Bush's dreadful definition of the Islamic Republic as a country ruled by an unelected elite that represses the desire for freedom of the Iranian people. But Bush's definition is perfect, and yesterday's events verified it.

If the Times and the BBC wanted some really interesting aspect of the rally, all they had to do was listen to Radio France Internationale, which found a grim spectacle: a signup table for would-be martyrs. I suppose there was a big banner over it, "anyone who wants to blow himself up, sign here."

But not even the French could tell us how many volunteers they got.

JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Tocqueville on American Character . Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Michael Ledeen